It’s been quite a while since I’ve added a new blog post! After having surgery in March, we experienced a surge in demand and it’s kept me quite busy. I finally have some time to start writing again, and one topic I really want to discuss is why it makes sense to hire a professional debt negotiator instead of tackling settlement negotiation on your own. As a professional negotiator with 5 years of experience and over $1.2m of unsecured debt settled in my career, I’d like to offer what I think are the top 5 reasons to hire someone like me to handle debt negotiations.
1. Negotiation can be very stressful especially when it’s your own accounts.
Emotions get involved and can compromise strategy. An objective, experienced debt negotiator can look at the situation as just a math problem, without the personal connection to the accounts; while still caring about the client and pushing for the best possible outcome.
2. Negotiation requires experience to achieve the best outcome.
Most folks who attempt to negotiate settlements are trying it out for the first time, unlike someone who has built a career out of achieving successful settlements. There are many pitfalls to avoid when settling, and without knowing it you can even provide information to the other party that you think will help, but ends up hurting you. This is why we utilize FDCPA Cease and Desist letters during the course of our negotiations, so that the debt collectors can’t contact you or harass you during the process. In general, unless there’s some kind of legal action going on with the account, you don’t need to provide information about your assets or how much is in your bank account and it’s best not to do so. A simple monthly budget listing every possible expense will usually meet most debt collection or creditor requirements for financial information.
3. An experienced debt negotiator will have empirical data from past settlements to compare with what the collector is telling them.
I like to use the example of an auto mechanic and a customer who doesn’t know how to work on cars (like myself). An unscrupulous auto mechanic could tell me that my serpentine belt needs replaced, or I need some new expensive parts; when I may only just need an oil change. I don’t know enough about how cars work to understand whether the expert is being honest with me or just making it sound like I need additional parts and service to make more money for themselves. The same dynamic plays out when a borrower attempts to negotiate with debt collection professionals. And they truly are professionals, who work at their craft 8-10 hours per day, 5 days or more per week. While many of them engage in abusive or unethical practices, they do have the upper hand over most borrowers when it comes to knowledge of collection cycles and what a certain lender will or won’t accept. They could tell you that the best they can settle for is only a certain amount, and you wouldn’t know if they were being honest with you unless you had a similar amount of experience with that particular lender’s collection cycle. In one of my recent settlements this year, a collector exclaimed after I presented my first offer, “This is an INSULT to Sallie Mae!”. However, I knew that the offer was in line with what that lender would accept at the stage of the collection cycle the account was in. I laughed and calmly repeated several times for him to just submit my offer. He finally did, and we got the settlement.
4. Debt collectors are less likely to try their games with an experienced negotiator.
When the collector on the other line realizes that I know just as much or more than them, it levels the playing field. They won’t attempt to get me to take the settlement without first getting it in writing, or draft an electronic check from my client’s personal bank account; because they know that those things are nonstarters with any professional debt negotiator worth their salt. Conversely, I am also more aggressive than most borrowers in negotiations and will demand settlements in an authoritative tone, instead of asking “would you consider this much”. I also have a detailed knowledge of the different forms of consumer complaints available to borrowers, and we utilize these if the collection agents step out of line.
5. An experienced private student loan or unsecured debt negotiator knows what steps to follow to ensure that the settlement goes through successfully after the actual dollar amount of the settlement has been agreed to.
It may seem like the job is done once you get the agreement you want in writing; but some of my toughest negotiations have taken place after the settlement has been verbally agreed to and the borrower has received a written offer. There are too many horror stories about borrowers who have thought they settled, only to find out that the account was forwarded to another collection agency who claims no knowledge of the previous agreement. This is why we always get settlements in writing, as well as keeping proof of the payment made. Then, if the worst case scenario happens as I mentioned above, we have documentation for regulatory complaints and to prove that the settlement has already occurred. By following my time tested payment protocol, we have never lost a settlement after it was agreed to and paid; although there were certainly situations where we had to aggressively file complaints to resolve issues post settlement.
All good debt negotiators follow the “TSR Amendments” passed in 2010 which require settlements to be completed before being paid. With all of the potential issues involved, the small percentage of the savings that a performance based negotiator charges is worth the peace of mind, not to mention the time and effort involved. If you’re considering settlement on your private student loans or unsecured debt, contact me for a free evaluation. You have nothing to lose, and even if you decide to negotiate on your own accounts, I can provide some additional information and insight from my years of experience in the debt negotiation trenches.